Mac software updates get smart with AppFresh

Once upon a time software version management was a simple affair. Then along came the Internet and with it a regular stream of sub-point updates and shiny new widgets and special new preference apps and plugins and… you get it right? Keeping all your applications up to date has now become a chore. A chore AppFresh is offering to make easier than any version manager that has come before.

AppFresh takes charge of all your OS X software updates integrating Apple Software Update Microsoft AutoUpdate Sparkle (a software update framework used by many Cocoa developers) and even the infamous Adobe Updater. Referencing the versions database after an initial scan you get a clear overview of what is up to date what has updates available and a concise view of just how many apps plugins widgets and preferences you have installed. You can then download all available updates at a time of your choosing – perfect for those trying to manage peak/off-peak download allowances. Even running the updates can be managed through the AppFresh interface.

Updates are one thing but perhaps a more lust worthy feature is the AppFresh snapshot tool. This stores a snap of the current version preferences and application data attached to a particular program. If an update doesn’t perform to your liking you can tell AppFresh to roll back to the earlier version.

Some people are still finding bugs in AppFresh 0.7.x and the Metaquark team make it clear this is still a development preview to be used with caution. So if you don’t have a functional system backup in place (and if you don’t you’re mad) it might be best to watch from the sidelines until AppFresh turns 1.0.

While still early days it’s interesting to see such a slick usable version manager with powerful features found nowhere else appear on OS X. With other platforms often claiming superiority in the third-party application department it’s interesting that all suffer much more basic software in this category. Particularly where other managers of any note like VersionTracker Pro (Windows or OS X) are paid solutions (don’t forget VersionTracker was a Mac OS only tool before taking Windows by storm). The Linux package management system may be a nice automation but like the rest it demands a lot of effort should you decide you want to roll back to a previous version.

Here’s hoping the pure concept of AppFresh and its snapshot tool will rub off across the industry leading to better smarter version management – roll back features included – for users of every operation system.